State of the Union

Daily Round-up: Debt, Death, and Drones

Patrick J. Buchanan says the welfare-happy nations of Europe may soon see their fears materialize as a financial tsunami. Catalyzed by Greece’s imminent debt default, it could trigger a collapse of the European Union and bring about a global depression. Germany is the only nation believed capable of saving the EU, but with a dwindling and aging population, can it?

Obama finally made good on one of his promises it seems. Fixing healthcare? Nope. Ending the wars? Nope. Closing the revolving door between corporations and government? Nope. He made good on his promise to start assassinating American citizens without due process, as it has been reported that cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen believed to be influencial within al-Qaeda, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike. Kelly Vlahos says that today is a dark day for the constitution, and the precedent set in this event is a chilling one.

Tom Engelhardt says that these kinds of drone operations are going to become the dominant tool in U.S. military operations. As we enter into the 21st-century, we have seen the rise of open-ended global warfare, Wilsonian nation-building efforts, and “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Engelhardt takes a deeper look into the legalisms and political maneuvering that has defined contemporary American warfare.

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A Dark Day for the Constitution: American Killed By Drone Strike

After months of speculation, the U.S military has killed an American-born cleric in what is probably the clearest indication that the U.S Constitution has been set aside for another (ever-evolving) piece of paper called the Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF). Now the military has truly become judge, jury and executioner, with the full blessing of the White House and the other branches of government behind it.

According to the most recent reports, Anwar al-Awlaki, who was born in New Mexico, and has preached in American mosques and was allegedly a spiritual inspiration to the Fort Hood Shooter and the unsuccessful Underwear Bomber, was killed in a U.S-led airstrike in Yemen. Story here:

The U.S government has spent the last year trying to convince us that it was legal to target an American citizen for termination because he was a “terrorist” and “key al Qaeda leader,” though it never bothered to give us the evidence because of course, any intelligence it had on Awlaki was “classified” and we just had to take their word for it. Plenty of smart people are pointing out today that Awlaki was hardly a significant operational threat, much less the new Osama bin Laden — though the White House was trying so hard to make him OBL’s replacement.

So now the U.S government has gone from blowing up from the sky any foreigner it deems a threat to national security (and anyone unlucky to be next to him at the time), to picking off American citizens with the same impunity. A foreboding moment, seeing that Awlaki’s assassination comes the same month we’re told the military is working on pilotless, automatic killer drones, and amid growing reports that American police and border patrol agents are routinely using surveillance drones for law enforcement here in the United States. Scarier still, is that by public accounts, Awlaki was targeted for what he said, not what he did. He was an extremist and a propagandist in a war that has been just as much about moving hearts and minds as it has about tearing into flesh and imprisoning the enemy. Crazy people might have listened to him and acted on their own impulses — much like Anders Behring Breivik liked to listen to American Islamophobe propagandists Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller before he went out and killed 76 people in Norway — but we have yet to hear any evidence that he picked up a gun or planted an IED or even plotted a successful attack against the United States. Judge, jury and executioner — it doesn’t matter much to Awlaki now, but we deserve to hear the proof.

Good thing for Geller and Spencer the Norwegians don’t have their own AUMF. Sadly, our AUMF has taken on a life of its own, and will unlikely be stopped before turning its voracious sights right back home.



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Can a Geriatric Germany Save Europe?

As Greece lurches on the precipice of default on its sovereign debt, a default that could bring down banks across Europe and precipitate a global financial panic, a consensus is building that there is but one way out.

First, a structured default on the Greek debt, giving creditors a major haircut, but compensating them with eurobonds of half the face value of the Greek bonds, guaranteed by the European Central Bank.

Second, a huge new European Financial Stabilization Facility of trillions of euros to recapitalize stricken banks and buy up the sovereign debt of Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain, should private investors flee their bonds.

Such a solution, however, depends upon Germany, the richest nation in Europe and major contributor to the ECB.

Hard-money Germans, however, do not relish bailing out the deadbeat nations of Club Med who have more generous welfare states than their own.

Politically, it may not be possible to cajole or coerce the Germans, indefinitely, into saving the eurozone, the collapse of which could bring on a depression and bring down the European Union itself.

There is another reason the European Monetary Union and EU may be headed for the boneyard: demography. Read More…

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Facebook as digital passport?

NPR reports that an increasing number of news sites — in the interest of reducing trolls and personal attacks — are requiring commenters to disclose their real names. How do they verify that a person is using their offline identity? By requiring them to login via leading social network Facebook. As one Los Angeles Times editor points out, Facebook is rigorous about deleting fake accounts:

I’m impressed at Facebook’s efforts at authentication. It’s for real. You know, if I were just to join up on Facebook, for example, to leave a comment, and I made up a name, chances are it would not show up …

As the emerging de facto standard for verifying identity online, this puts Facebook in a powerful position, something akin to the consumer credit agencies. The lords of the digital frontier are convinced this fills a necessary gap in cyberspace.  As Google chairman Eric Schmidt said last year,

One of the errors that the Internet made a long time ago is that there was not an accurate and non-revocable identity-management service … And the best example of an identity-management service today that’s reasonably reliable is Facebook. Read More…

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Daily Round-up: Arabian Quagmires, President Putin, WikiLeaks Crackdown

Is America doomed to go of the way of all empires before it? The waning British empire of the 20th century conducted a series of unsuccessful experiments in the Middle East, before America filled in for her in the latter half of the century. None of these have proven successful on a macro level. Leon Hadar makes a critical analysis of the interventionist foreign policies executed in the Middle East, from the collapse of the Ottoman empire to the modern day as discussed in the The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Jonathan Schneer.

News that Putin will return to the Russian presidency is being met with not-so-interesting reports on the situation. But Daniel Larison says political musical chairs will not improve the dynamics of the U.S.-Russian relationship very much — only an understanding of Russian interests will do so.

Is it illegal to post publicly available information on an internet blog? Well, it seems as though that is indeed the case in a brave new America. Peter Van Buren details an account in which he was investigated by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security for linking to a publicly available Wikileaks document, shortly after releasing We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. Coincidence? He says not.

Rod Dreher says the time of Old Europe and state sovereignty may soon be coming to a close. Will the entirety of the eurozone cede its autonomy to Brussels?

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Where is the Peace Party?

A columnist for my local paper is looking for a “peace candidate” who has no desire to build other peoples’ nations for them and who would be willing to reassess our “military intervention throughout the world.” She reaches the conclusion, however tentatively, that instead of having so many of our troops bogged down thousands of miles from our shores, “we could have strategically targeted every one of al-Qaida’s leaders. And we could have skipped everything else in between and just done that.”

The U.S. has carried out a missionary foreign policy in recent decades under presidents from both national parties.  Enough is enough, even for those of us who wouldn’t go quite as far as my friend Ron Paul, who seems not to recognize that we do have enemies abroad and that their hostility is not exclusively our fault. But Paul is in no way responsible for Republican derailments. Ever since the Reagan administration, Republican foreign policy has been increasingly under the control of hysterical visionaries, who want to convert the world, if necessary by force, to the current American democratic model.

In the 1980s these advisors and journalists proclaimed the need for a “global democratic revolution” and with the arrival of George W. Bush in the presidency they got their way. It was these shapers of Republican foreign policy who pushed us into prolonged efforts at nation-building in Iraq. They also manufactured Bush’s ineptly delivered speeches about bringing human rights to every soul on this planet; and they drove their eager pupil into monetizing an expensive invasion and occupation, which resulted in creating the highest government debt in our history. (The American people are right to believe that Bush did as much as Obama to bring about our present runaway debts.)  Read More…

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Obama’s Tribal Politics

“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.

“Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”

That was state Sen. Barack Obama in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic convention. His rejection of tribal politics, his stirring call to national unity, vaulted him into the Senate and was the first step on the path that took him to the White House.

Well, that was then, but now is now. Read More…

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Daily Round-up: A world with borders, Greek Default, and Obama’s Asthma Attack

Peter Hitchens laments the fact that the utopia of progressive visions is, as they often say, ‘a world without borders’. Getting rid of borders, he says, takes all the fun out of it.

Utopia, you may be sure, has no borders. It goes on forever. There is no escape from it from horizon to horizon. World-reformers and egalitarians and multiculturalists hate borders. Globalists hate borders. But for me they are a sign that in different places men and women like to live in different ways and under different rules.

A world without borders, he says, would be one in which cultural identity gives way to a global uniformity—and no more adventure to be had.

But don’t expect Utopia anytime soon, for crises still loom ahead. Rod Dreher thinks the hurricane of economic turmoil now engulfing Greece may soon hit American shores. As default looms over the European continent, panic, uncertainty and tear gas diffuse into the air around its middle class. Rod has some thoughts on how the critically-injured American middle class can weather the coming storm.

Daniel Larison says the GOP establishment is officially in panic mode. With the horse race of the primaries now in full swing, they don’t seem too happy with the current top tier. With Chris Christie’s refusal to enter the fray, the party elites continue their scramble to promote an alternative.

Do you like to breathe? Most find it a fairly enjoyable habit, given that it helps supply oxygen to the brain, keeping one alive. However, The Weekly Standard reports that in the name of the Great Mother Earth, the Obama administration will soon see that over-the-counter asthma inhalers are banned.

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Bunker Busters

Candidate Barack Obama promised transparent and accountable government. In retrospect that pledge was an empty one as in reality he has hidden behind government secrecy even more than his predecessor. Nowhere is secrecy less acceptable than in the government machinations that could lead to war.  If more Americans had been aware of the cooked intelligence and politicized analysis that led to Iraq, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and done much to wreck the US economy might have been avoided.

In that light, the news that the Obama Administration has secretly supplied Israel with 55 GBU-28 so-called “bunker buster” bombs is just one more indication that the White House is managing a largely clandestine foreign policy that is both irrational and counterproductive and could well lead to a new war.  Israel has wanted to have the bombs, which are only useful in attacking targets that are deep underground or heavily fortified, to make credible its threat to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program.  The United States thereby becomes an enabler of an Israeli attack, if it should come, and an accomplice in an act of war.  The United States’ official position on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, reflecting the consensus of the entire intelligence community as spelled out in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, is that there is no evidence that Iran’s nuclear program has a weapons component, even though there are concerns that Tehran might intend to move in that direction.  Israel, meanwhile, has an estimated 200 nuclear weapons and possesses a national leadership that is every bit as kleptocratic as the Iranians.

So the Obama Administration is effectively providing the wherewithal to permit an Israeli preemptive attack on Iran, an act of war which would quickly involve the United States, particularly given the background bleat of Hillary Clinton’s frequent assertion that “all options are on the table” when it comes to dealing with the Mullahs.  Nor would Congress and the mainstream media hesitate to jump in if “brave little Israel” were to lead the way.  The US would probably already be at war but for the considerable pushback within the government itself regarding starting yet another major conflict in Asia. The Pentagon, CIA, and the State Department are known to be opposed to any attack on Iran, recognizing that it would be a much tougher nut than Iraq leading to a conflict that would likely have catastrophic economic and political consequences.

The fact that the weapons intended to start a war were given to Tel Aviv secretly reveals the White House’s duplicity – if they were really required for Israel’s legitimate defense there would have been no subterfuge and would have been included in routine weapons transfers.  Obama, who reasonably enough despises Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but is fearful to adopting any hard line against Tel Aviv with elections looming, has done everything he can to appease the Likud-led government, heedless of the US interests in the region.

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Food, Inc. Fights Back

Since the anti-agribusiness movement hit full stride with the release of the “Food, Inc.” documentary in 2008, corporate farming has found itself back on its heels. But they’ve now launched a counter-assault, with support from their allies at the USDA and agricultural science departments.

The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), newly formed in 2010, is in part funded through USDA-mandated “checkoff programs” — something akin to an industrial version of a homeowners assessment, a levy on commodities that in the past has paid for “Got Milk?” and “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner” campaigns — and is also underwritten by agribusiness giants Monsanto, DuPont, and John Deere.  The group fired all cylinders on its $30-million-a-year PR machine last week, hosting a transcontinental infomercial called “The Food Dialogues.

The “Food Dialogues” event, which took place simultaneously via video conference in DC, Indiana, and California, was billed as a “two-way dialogue about food, the future of food and how it is grown or raised.” “The whole purpose is to create a conversation,” USFRA Chairman Bob Stallman told NPR.

In practice, the event was like a cross between televised town hall and “Meet the Press,” with ABC News anchor Claire Shipman serving as moderator. Using the former White House correspondent and wife of Obama aide Jay Carney was Madison Avenue genius; it provided what otherwise might have looked too much like a one-sided infomercial with an aura of seriousness, and gave the impression that agribusiness executives were interested in a genuine “dialogue” — not simply a stunt to rehabilitate their damaged image. Read More…

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